Meet the District 2 candidates: Jim Webster and Lindsay Lancaster
Lindsey Lancaster and Jim Webster are running for Winnebago County Board District 2. The winner of Tuesday's election will represent the northwest corner of the county from downtown Rockton, west to Shirland, Harrison and Durand, north of Highway 75, to Lake Summerset. The boundaries of District 2 [PDF] include Hononegah Community High School, Rockton Athletic Fields, Pinecroft, Winfield, Macktown Forest Preserve, parts of Roscoe Road, Owen Center Road, Old River Road, Prairie Hill, South Bluff Road, Dorr Road, the Rock River, and Old Meadow Road.
Jim Webster has represented the district for about 17 years. He has owned Sugar River Nursery since 1976. His father, Joseph Webster, managed Klehm's Nursery before its transformation into Klehm Arboretum beginning in 1985. Webster is a member of the Farm Bureau and the National Rifle Association. He chairs the county's Zoning Committee, and previously chaired on committees dealing with solid waste, forest preserves, and concealed carry permits. He says, "I've been on all the committees" over the years.
Lindsey Lancaster, who calls herself "a working mom," is the office administrator for the Old Stone Church in Rockton, IL. She serves on the Rockton 140 PTO board and is a troop leader for Girl Scout Troop 384, where her daughter is a member. As a volunteer with the Rockton food pantry, Lancaster says, "I see first hand the struggles of people in our community, but I also get to see the hope and future of our community in these positions."
According to the Rockford Register-Star, Lancaster has been endorsed by unions such as Sheet Metal Workers Local 219, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 23, Ironworkers Local 498, AFSCME Council 31, and Northwestern Illinois Building Trades Unions. Webster has been endorsed by Republicans such as Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana, State Rep. District 90 candidate John Cabello, State Rep. Andrew Chesney, Durand Village President Sheila Hoffman, Rockton Township Supervisor Paul Williams, and Rockton Village President John Peterson.
In her office position, Lancaster says she "works with a variety of people and personalities. I also work in conjunction with our board to adhere to a limited budget (as most non-profits have), and help ensure we are making fiscally responsible decisions, particularly as it pertains to the day-to-day operations of the church."
But Lancaster also has management and leadership experience apart from her non-profit work, though she is new to politics. "Being a mom," she says, "I have to balance the needs, priorities, and schedules of more than just myself. It is work that is never ending, but it is rewarding, and never dull."
One of Webster's top goals is to "get the roads up to snuff." He is on the County Board's public works committee, which plans to redo all the rural roads with wider shoulders and rumble strips. Webster says West Rockton Road is the standard that the other roads will match: Lincoln Street and Prairie Hill from 51 west to 75 will have the same standards.
"The biggest challenge facing the County right now is confidence in our leadership," says Lancaster, claiming that the previous coroner still had office keys over a year after he was indicted for forgery and theft. She also disapproved of the County Board's decision not to collect more taxes for River Bluff Nursing Home even after voters approved a tax increase. "I believe that there are a lot of people jaded by politics and politicians as well as other leadership in the County, and bringing change in that area means bringing in new people to be given an opportunity to make changes."
Webster says, "Things are constantly changing, you have to change with the times." He estimates that he "probably introduces more resolutions than anybody" else on the County Board. He was a leader in opposing a factory hog farm in his area and in blocking a potential oil tanker railroad that would have run through Winnebago County to Ogle County. He says, "The Feds held all the cards," and would have had the right to take "prime farmland" to build it. "People were excited" about the railroad at first, says Webster, but "they didn't understand." In the end, all the County Board members voted in favor of his resolution opposing the railroad. "That took a lot of work."
Lancaster says, "I am running for county board because I have become disheartened with our elected officials' lack of response to events that matter to me. I was home with my newborn child when Chemtool exploded in 2021. Fortunately, we were outside of the evacuation zone, but the dangers from that disaster have yet to be fully seen. We waited a year to even hear what was in that building the day of the explosion. I feel that as a member of my community (Rockton), and a member of the greater community of Winnebago County, it is time for more voices for transparency and accountability in local government, and I hope to be able to provide that in District 2."
Webster lives 5 miles due west of the Chemtool plant. His patio faces east, so he could see the smoke clearly from his house. About the explosion, he says, "It was an accident, they didn't intend for that to happen." He sees the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) as the people responsible for managing the cleanup. "We deal with the local stuff," he says. "It's up to them to do the air and water quality [checks]," and he notes "they gave all-clear on the air and river." He feels the IEPA has determined there are "no more health issues" after the fire.
Lancaster says, "I will provide the transparency and accountability I seek in elected officials. I will work to keep companies like Chemtool honest and safe for the communities in which they wish to operate. I will work to provide safe, well-paying employment opportunities to people in Winnebago County."
Both candidates say they want to do something about the "digital divide," especially the lack of affordable internet service in the rural western townships of Winnebago County. Webster says one option he investigated "would cost millions," but an entity in Jo Daviess County gave a quote that was a "whole lot less." One possibility would be to put repeater transmitters on towers, though private Spectrum lines from Wisconsin down Boswell Road have also been suggested.
Lancaster says, "I know District 2 is a largely Republican district, and I am the Democratic candidate, but more than that, I am a community member working every day to create positive changes within the community. I am a mom, a wife, a neighbor who wants to work hard to make a difference for you and your families, as well as mine."
Webster says for him, the biggest motivator is "the satisfaction of helping people."